Ken Bugul is one of the most important francophone writers in Senegal, as well as a leading upholder of feminism in Africa. English-speaking readers know her best for her novel The Abandoned Baobab, which is her only English-translated work. It was another one of her books that caused an upheaval and shocked the whole world in 1999. Riwan ou le Chemin de Sable (Riwan or the Sand Track) advocates in favor of polygamy as a legitimate family structure. This could pave the way for further non-traditional marriage arrangements and back up the fact that human beings aren't really meant to be monogamous.
Although this practice is forbidden in some countries, it is very common in all of Sub-Saharan Africa. Evangelistic enterprises and colonization of the continent caused a moral imposition of monogamy through all the continent, which was fundamentally permeated by a western vision that repudiated local customs and deemed them as savage and barbaric. In this age defined by sexual freedom, these kind of conceptions not only continue to affect marriage arrangements, but also other forms of non-traditional partnerships.
This isn't in any way an attempt to debunk solid, serious, and committed relationships, but you have the right to know —if you're one of those who believe that your partner can love and desire only you just because you're in a relationship–, you're living in a lie. A relationship's success has nothing to do with monogamy. Human beings have been brought up to passionately believe that human relationships entail exclusivity. However, few have realized that this is really a form to deprive others of their liberty. So, nobody has ever taught us that said exclusivity is only a matter of choice.
Emotionally dependence can make fears and insecurities rise again: fear of loneliness, fear of not being good enough, and fear of abandonment. These insecurities usually unleash obsessive and controlling attitudes that come disguised as love or melancholy. Statements such as "It's not that I don't want you to see your friends, I just want to see you so bad" are part of that unmistakable manipulation method we commonly use to keep our fears at bay.
Social pressure and romantic idealization have made us prioritize fidelity over other qualities. However, forbidding your partner from hanging out or seeing someone else won't make you happier nor turn you into a perfect couple. Simply put, it will only hurt you and chip away at your self esteem. When you deprive your partner from their freedom, you curtail their happy, regardless of how much love they can offer.
An absolutely perfect couple doesn't exist. It's an ideal that each one of us has created according to the way we are, what we want, and what we lack as individuals. John Lennon used to say: "They made us believe that each one of us is the half of an orange, and that life only makes sense when you find that other half. They did not tell us that we were born as whole, and that no-one in our lives deserves to carry on his back such responsibility of completing what is missing on us."As individuals we are already whole, so we must learn to love ourselves first. Until we achieve that, we will be able to really love somebody else and share our lives or part of it with them. We'll only find happiness if we are free. Before getting involved in any kind of relationship, we must be aware of our own life goals, of which kind of commitment we are seeking, and of our freedom.
The most reasonable thing is to analyze if you and your partner really share common relationship goals. Maybe your goal is to be married by 30, but, do they think alike? They may want to travel, study, get to know more people instead of getting married. Once you've discussed your goals and considered different scenarios, you'll be able to see where your partner's opinions stem from. Maybe, the best thing that can happen to a potential solid relationship is to come clean and clear all doubts you may have instead of hiding or ignoring them or lying to yourself. What will happen the day you want to get involved with somebody else or you want to experiment sexually? If your partner wants to try something new, they are entitled to do it, and the same goes for you, of course.
Remember, your partner is not your property. Freedom to be who you are, to chose who and how to love, and to express your needs is crucial for achieving a fulfilling relationship. Control only destroys relationships and the people involved.
Translated by Andrea Valle Gracia