The beauty of unconditional love

What you need to know:

  • Because my mother was her family’s designated aunt, our home was always filled with aunts, uncles and cousins that had reached marriageable age. And as you can imagine, there was never a dull moment.

As social media flooded with Valentine’s Day memes and boutiques hopefully displayed their best red and black outfits, I could not help but remember the first time I thought I witnessed the various faces of love.  I was fortunate enough to witness the highs and lows of love growing up.

Because my mother was her family’s designated aunt, our home was always filled with aunts, uncles and cousins that had reached marriageable age. And as you can imagine, there was never a dull moment.

Although many came and went, there were two aunts that stood out for me. These two women were to say in the least perfection in human form.

Their beauty and virtue brought suitors from all over the region knocking on our door for a chance of winning their hearts. Although they had my mother to help them make the right choices, she knew that at the end of the day, they, and not her would have to live with the choices they made. So, she limited her involvement to just giving general guidelines.

Now that I am older, I can appreciate how much stress they were under not just to make the right choices for themselves but for their families as well. This could be the reason why they made up their minds up and changed them almost every week.

This went on until a one captain Solomon showed up.

Solomon came from one of those old and prestigious families. He worked as a pilot with one of the globally recognised airlines. His visit to our home was the first time I saw matching designer luggage.

He came with six suitcases filled with every luxury a woman could dream of and one full of different types of candy.

There were dresses, skirts, shoes, lingerie, soaps, perfumes and lotions that we had only seen in magazine advertisements. It felt like Christmas as the entire household got gifts. I think he went to Selfridges in the United Kingdom and asked the shopping assistants to pack whatever they thought a young woman would like because everything still had tags on them. On his maiden visit, he came with people we used to see in newspapers.

It was such a surreal experience. And still, my aunt had reservations. He paid us a second visit to ask for permission to take her on a date, but my mum said no, because he could not expect a young woman to always just be free.

He apologised and requested for another time.

When he came to take her, I was tasked to go along for the sake of my aunt’s virtue. It was on that date that my aunt made up her mind as Solomon described to her the life of grandeur, adventure and luxury he wanted to share with her. Thinking about it now, it strikes me as odd that he never talked about love.

He talked about what he would give her and when she asked what he expected from her in return, he said her family name was enough for him. Basically, he was interested in the name, not the individual. But she was so mesmerised by the movie-like life he described to say no.

To cut the long story short, Aunt Diana and captain Solomon married, moved overseas and had three children.

Eight years later, my mother was woken up by a knock on the door. It was none other than Aunt Diana looking worse for the wear. She did not have anything more than the airline blanket the crew had let her keep.

As soon as she lay her head on the pillow, she slept for 24 hours. When she woke up, she shared the horrific story of her eight-year marriage. She said her life had been so bad that she could not stand her marriage anymore.

I have heard women casually say they would rather cry in a Benz than be happy in a taxi, I think they say that because they do not know how bad things can get that no amount of wealth can compensate for.

To an outsider, my aunt had it all; a successful husband, a mansion, healthy children and plenty of servants to wait on her hand and foot. But behind closed doors, she lived with bitterness, fear, pain and regret.

So, one day, my aunt gave her numerous minders the slip, got into a taxi and told the driver to take her to the airport. At the airport, she explained that she was a Ugandan citizen trapped in a foreign country and needed to return home. After deliberations between the two embassies, she was put on flight up to Entebbe International Airport.

My other aunt, meanwhile, had married a humble man whom she felt needed her. She entered the marriage with all good intentions but 10 years of giving and getting nothing in return, she started feeling used. Although she tried her best, she eventually gave up.

The goal

It is so interesting when you hear these two marriage veterans recount their lives. While one was crying in a villa or feeling suffocated on the Riviera, the other was struggling to find money to pay the veterinarian to treat the cattle while her husband snored away in a bed her family had gifted them.

Although they were living different lives, they shared the similarity of feeling unfulfilled.

Many times, we think we would feel different about our partners if circumstances were changed. For example, we think if we had more money or more freedom, circumstances would be better. But that is not necessarily true as I learnt from my two aunts.

Love is not just about finding the right person but creating the right relationship.  It is not about how much love you have in the beginning, but how much love you build until the end. 

A relationship should be nurturing, caring, loving, kind, refreshing and supportive.  And it is impossible to do this when you entered it for different reasons.

Beauty fades, experiences lose their luster and good intentions begin to feel like a burden, but a relationship built on unconditional love will see you through every challenge.

 And as we celebrate the month of love, my wish for you all is to experience the gift of unconditional love.