Undefined relationships: what are you to them?

What you need to know:

UNDEFINED RELATIONSHIP. So you are with this person and do everything that couples do together. However, when it is time to introduce you before friends, they introduce you as just a friend. What do you do? Mathias Wandera talked to some people who have undergone this and they share their experiences.

For Angella Kimudui, there is no worse betrayal when a man you have been sharing a bed with introduces you to his friends as just a friend. This is something the 27-year-old saleswoman knows from first-hand experience.

She met *Paul nine months back at a friend’s birthday party. He was the tall Don Draper type in the room so she noticed him before he even saw her. But it was not love at first sight. As she says, “I hated his guts. I actually had no intention of talking to him until he walked up to me.”

Well, a conversation ensued, digits were exchanged and surprisingly even to herself, she agreed to have a drink with him barely a fortnight after that party. And it has been one drink after the other since then only that nowadays he does not have to take her out for cocktail in a fancy restaurant, instead she comes over and makes the drink in his kitchen, for him.

Actually, according to her, they do not only take drinks, they also cuddle up in the same couch and watch movies. Sometimes they cook together. They text at midnight and make good morning phone calls. Occasionally, they fight and cut each other off for a day, then meet, mostly at his house to talk and clear the air. And often on such occasions she stays the night, not wrapped up alone on the couch but coupled up in the same bed.
That has always been the nature of their relationship, well, until she decided to completely cut him off. This was after his boys found her at his house and he told them she was a friend from work.
“I was right there when he said it. I had even spent the night. And in front of four of his boys he labeled me a friend, just a friend!” a frustrated Kimudui stresses.

As she goes on to narrate, this is not the first time he was doing it. “He used to tell everyone I am simply a friend but it was okay then since we were just in the beginning stages. Right now it is not. I have brought up the question of defining our relationship many times but he always dodges the topic. Sometimes, when he explains he says he really loves me but does not want to have boyfriend title because it creates pressure. I just don’t get it. So I have left him to figure out what he really wants. I just can’t keep on hanging, unsure of what this really is, a relationship or a friendship.”

Relationships in question
Well, it is not only Angella Kimudui that is in such dilemma. There are many more people in this town who are not really sure of what the relations they are in should really be called. For some reason, many people have simply refused to attach any titles to their relationships. You can tell by the way your friend Keith stammers when you ask him what Robin, that girl he has been spending time with for the last one month really is to him—girlfriend, bestfriend or just a friend? He just doesn’t know, or for some reason does not want to discuss titles.

And it is not just the men that are running away from giving relationships proper definitions, women too have at times decided to just let things hang. She will show up for what should technically be a date, many dates actually. She will call you over lunch break to “check on you.” Or leave you midnight goodnight texts you never answer to because you are asleep. Two months into the ‘relationship’ she will be showing up to cook for you. But she will avoid every attempt you make to discuss what the both of you really are to each other.

But why?
According to Polly Nuwagaba, a relationship psychologist with Family 101 Uganda, there are varied reasons why people could steer clear of committing to titles in relationships. And though some reasons do cut across, Nuwagaba believes the reasons men do this often differ from those of women.

“The common conclusion ladies always rush to in such cases is that a man is cheating but that is not always the case. Sometimes men just aren’t sure about how they really feel about you and thus don’t want to commit to anything and then realize they were lying not only to you but also to themselves. Or alternatively he actually loves you but is not yet sure whether you feel the same way. Men are egoistic. Instead of bring up the topic of actually dating and be turned down, he would rather not bring it up at all.” Nuwagaba explains.

But for Edrine Kawuki, a final year MUBS student who reveals having recently cut things off with a girl after both parties failing to define the relationship they were in believes it is many times an issue of men not wanting to deal with responsibility.

“Let us face it, the day you sit down and define yourselves as boyfriend-girlfriend, certain responsibilities come along with the titles. You will need to be a good boyfriend, perhaps buy her gifts and take her out, which creates a financial burden already.” Kawuki explains. “But away from the financial aspect, it still becomes a burden when you have to text or call someone every morning and evening not just out of love but because it is your responsibility as a boyfriend. That is why sometimes I have decided to just keep things undefined. It reduces on any pressure.”

Other times however, especially where the woman in question is of a certain age that should be in for marriage, a man will fear that the moment the relationship is defined, the woman will start pressuring him for the ring, something many men would rather not deal with. Possibly also, according to Nuwagaba, men who have been terribly heartbroken by the failure of a certain relationship in their past always have the fear of starting up another relationship only for it to fail and would thus prefer to stay put in undefined territory.

Reasons for women
The same fear caused by a failed past relationship could as well keep women at bay. But according to Stella Mutaki, a relationship counsellor at EastCare Counseling services, the two reasons women would choose to stay in undefined relations are often a question of indecisiveness and sometimes just cheating.

“I do not see why a girl would prefer to be in such a place with her love life. Often those are young girls that still want to have fun, or women that are just not sure of what they really want. Maybe she is still figuring out whether she actually loves you and is giving herself time to see where her heart is at. Worse still, you could be one of the two men she is confused about and does not want to make any promises as yet just in case she finally decides on guy B.” Stella highlights.

Time to define your status?

Before even tabling the question of when it is right to put titles on a relationship, one wonders whether a title is important in the first place. Well, Mutaki believes it is.

“Continuing to see someone without getting on the same page of the true status of your relationship is like moving to sit in the next class before even knowing you were promoted to that class. It creates an unsettling feeling. It is even a risk, what if you actually end up falling in love with that person only to realize that they did not share the same feelings. What do you do? You can’t even hold them to anything because no promise was made or commitment set in the first place.”

And Mutaki believes the people who are fine with such relationships are usually the cowardly persons not ready to be held responsible for anything. They want to be in a position where they can walk out on you without having any guilt of a broken promise following them. That is why she asks that people demand of others to come clean and agree to a title.

As for when is the right time to define the relationship, Nuwagaba believes it is a question of feeling. “I would say go ahead and demand that a relationship be defined when you feel the time is right. Different relationships move faster or just differently so there can never be a set time like a month or 3months into it. But if you need indicators, then I believe that for as long as you are in constant touch with someone, meeting more often, the love and intimacy is in the air and you are having sex, then that relationship needs to be defined. And if that other person is not ready to have a title, they are wasting your time. Move on!”


“If my partner introduced me as a friend, I would introduce myself there and then,”
Aidah Mulindwa, Accountant.

“If my partner introduced me as a friend to a woman, I would take it easy but if to a man I would react there and then,”
Daniel Katerega, Marketing agent.

“If my partner introduced me as a friend, I would ask him why and ask him to explain what I am to them,”
Rosemary Kivumbi, Shop attendant.

“If my partner introduces me as a friend, I look for another way to show others that I am not just a friend,”
Shalifah Mubiru, Customer care agent.

“If my partner introduced me as a friend, I would start treating her as a friend until she realises that what she did was wrong,”
Gerald Kidawalime, Footballer.

“If my partner introduced me as a friend, I would keep quiet and when we are alone, I would ask why they did so,”
Hajjati Shamim Ali, Businesswoman.

“If my partner introduced me as a friend, I would keep quiet and wait for them to reach home or somewhere safe and then I ask why they did that.”
Jamil Otim, Football trainer.

“If my partner introducedme as a friend, I would just wait for her turn with my relative or friends and I also introduce her as just a friend.”
Jackson Kisembo, Footballer.

Compiled by Shabibah Nakirigya