Metropole Magazine

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08 Nov Written by  Ladi Opaluwa

On Becoming a Relationship Counsellor

A text message drops with a beep into your phone. It is a friend asking if you both could chat later. Such formalities rarely precede your conversations. The process of sharing information is usually a more spontaneous affair. If there is news, it is broken fast, no restraint, no permission is sought. This time you know there is a juicy story hanging in the space, so you text back, asking her to say it now.

She has a new admirer, she says, and gives ample details of his background: his ethnicity, his academic qualification, occupation, age and religion, all regular features of regular man. Then you send her a smiley, a grin, followed by a thumb up. She sends one back, suggesting depression, then you send a ‘Really?’ and a ‘Why!’ smiley before returning to text. The snag is that she is confused. To say yes or to say no. This is her dilemma. What does she do now?

So back and forth you begin to de-construct the situation, weighing each unit of biographical information against commonly acknowledged standard measure. He gets average scores on the most important indicators. Now your advice, as you have become a relationship expert. A short while ago, you were a friend, now you are a counsellor, presented with the uncanny task of judging the merits and demerits of a man.
He gets average scores, above average even, on the most important indicators. Counsellor, an agony aunty. You fancy yourself a shrink, sitting in a chair, donning a wig, an eyeglass set downward on the spine of your nose, and a scowl, contemplating the situation.

You look for the source of her confusion, to block the channel. You carry on for a while before it occurs to you that she really does not need your help. It happens often that a friend, having gone into a relationship or having decided to say yes without giving you, her closest friend, a chance to participate in decision making, because she didn’t need your help.

But it helps the friendship to give you the illusion that your opinion counts in this most critical decision, so undoes the process and takes you to the beginning where she texts you and confides in her a lie that she has found a man but she is as yet undecided.

She is in a quandary, help make up her mind. The agony aunt rapport confirms your position as her closest friend, the friend she trusts with such delicate matters. It is a compliment. You know because you have played her role in the past; friend deceiving friend, seeking advice on issues of utter clarity. You, too, meant it as a compliment.

Even after you realise the sham you adjust your glasses and continue the conversation. The hoax is noted but disregarded. You perpetuate it. You indulge her. You humour her with extended, winding deliberations. You find yourselves again weighing his merits, mulling over his particulars, going back and forth on the issue. You are in on this. It is a necessary charade, a mutual deceit.

At the end of the end of each mock session, to her relief hopefully, you are of no help. You admit to being more confused, as it is a complex matter. You tell her to leave her options open, else, to follow her heart. This is how to consult for a friend.

A few months after, beginning with a text message, there is another issue to be discussed. He has proposed. There are two ways to share the news of an engagement. Either with an exclamation mark or in a plain, unaccentuated statement. She doesn’t want you to be jealous, so she goes to great length to mask her happiness, and you go at equal length to exaggerate your reaction with a smiley, a huge grin.

As always, there is a snag. She is not certain he is the one. Another smiley indicating your incredulity. There is a smiley for every mood. Before the end of the conversation though, you have expended the range of facial expressions, yet she remains confused. At her most uncertain, you imagine a ring glittering from her middle finger.

Again, you ascend your psychotherapy stool and dish out ambiguity. You refrain from giving specific advice. You urge her to continue to pray about it.