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A condom for the heart


“You know what your problem is?” he said to her, angry and impatient, “Your problem is that you love like a peasant!” My friend was taken aback as his tirade continued. “You love as if you have nothing to lose. You love like somebody without control.”

My good friend, weepy and confused had gone seeking help over yet another heartbreak in a series of heartbreaks that threatened to overwhelm her. She figured talking to another man could provide her with some valuable insights on how men think.

What she wasn’t expecting was a furious scolding! He went on to explain to her that her heart was the most precious gift she had and that she should never treat it so carelessly as to invest it all in one person. She listened, learnt, and never looked back.

It’s happening again I know. And those who accuse me of always writing about love may feel quite vindicated. But it’s not so much that I enjoy writing about love as it is that I am fascinated by the human condition. And if you are truly honest with yourself you may come to realise that you too are as fascinated by humanity and its ways as I am.

I find the ways in which people relate entirely captivating and the ways in which we structure our interactions even more so. I imagine that the written and unwritten rules that govern our interactions and the outcomes that result from keeping and breaking those rules provide endless material for God and his neighbours at the dinner table.

This week I picked up a very interesting book called The Man Diet. I didn’t buy it, but it came as a freebie with a magazine I needed for some other purpose. So the author of this book, Zoe Strimpel, decided at the beginning of the year that she, like so many other people, was going to put herself on a diet. What made her diet unique, however, was that it was not concerned with cakes and calories, but rather with men and women. During a meaningful conversation with a friend, Strimpel had an “Aha moment” realising that the modern, emancipated woman’s life of casual sex and “junk food love” was actually not as much fun as she may have imagined, and was in fact leaving her feeling unhappy and unworthy and suffering from low self-esteem.

While her book surely has more relevance in the West that in Zimbabwe, (here we are too judgmental for any woman to survive too long on a casual sex diet) I do believe there are a couple of lessons there just the same.

No woman is immune from the dangers of loving too much, from the possibility of making too big an emotional investment for too small a return or from the ever-present hazard of eroding her self-esteem at the altar of love.

Whether a woman is in the big house, small house or a series of casual rondavels, I think women have to admit that they are not in fact made like men; that they generally invest more in relationships than men do, and that they approach love with a different set of expectations.

What then? The important thing though, is to avoid damage, and that’s where the condom for the heart comes in. What are the best ways to find protection?

Well some, like the one who counselled my friend, believe that the best cure for heartbreak is not to love at all; to put up the barricades and declare that the stakes are too high. Others believe that in love as in everything else you should always hold something back for yourself. Yet others say that if you are going to go into it you must be aware of the risks and be prepared for the consequences.
I would tend to side with the latter. Once you have performed a proper risk analysis, completed a cost-benefit exercise and done your due diligence you should then walk in with your head up and your eyes open.

To decide that the risks are too high and therefore never to be attempted is to shut out the sun and decide to live in the dark forever because one might get skin cancer. If the heart really is to be compared to a precious gem, would you decide not to wear your fine jewel because it might get stolen?

To go in while holding back is tantamount to the highest level of deception – of self as well as others. And the level of protection this offers is only good for public show. On the inside, you will hurt just as much as the person who openly gave it their all, and possibly a little more because your hurt is intermingled with issues of pride.

There are no easy answers to the issues that plague humanity. Management experts tell us that you cannot control that which you cannot measure. And what could be more difficult to measure than love!

Thembe Sachikonye writes in her personal capacity. Readers’ comments can be sent to localdrummer@newsday.co.zw. Follow Thembe on www.twitter/localdrummer

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