When I shared my story, a lot of people accused me of doing too much so soon. Most people fell on the mantra, “Don’t start what you can’t finish” and I agree with them. I didn’t start what I couldn’t finish. For the rest of my life, I can go to my in-law’s place and help with whatever they are doing. That’s how I was raised—to put my hands in and help wherever I could. It’s the reason I helped that day when I visited. I wasn’t doing it to prove a point. Yes, I wanted to warm up to them. I needed an opportunity to have a conversation with them not to prove a point. A lot of comments made me feel like I was raised wrongly and it was wrong to help when you can.
To me, “Don’t start what you can’t finish” isn’t an invitation to stop doing for others what you would want them to do for you.
That aside, I picked a lot of lessons from other comments. Most of them encouraged me not to run away but instead talk about it. Talking about it has always been my weakness. When I respect someone it’s hard for me to say no to them. I saw that when I was young. I spoke to friends about it. I asked for help from motivational speakers. I asked them, “How can I say no when it hurts?” They all said, “Just be bold and say it.” I realized I didn’t have that boldness. So instead of talking about things, I chose to run away from them. That attitude became evident in the way I dealt with my boyfriend’s mother. I respected her a lot. I was even shy of her. How could I say no to her when she needed my help?.
I spoke to my boyfriend about it. The first conversation was soft so he didn’t see how urgent and important it was for me. He called me one day and said, “So these days you want me to beg you before you visit me?” I answered, “It takes two to tango. If I’m not visiting, why don’t you also come around and look for me?” He started coming around on weekends. We’ll sit under the shade and have a conversation. Sometimes we’ll go out and have fun. He would expect me to see him the following weekend but I wouldn’t go. I didn’t give him a reason. I was running away from the topic until he said, “Paulina, be honest with me. Is something wrong? My mom keeps asking me of you. She thinks we are fighting. Why don’t you want to come home?”
That was all the prompt I needed to plunge into what was bothering me. I said, “You want me to be honest so here we go. I love your mom so much. She has something that reminds me of my own mom. I like the fact that she likes me too but….here is the ‘but’ so pay attention. The way she uses me when I’m there doesn’t make me happy. I come to visit you and spend some time with you but in the end, I spend all the time in the kitchen with her. Less time to talk with you and less time for us to talk about what’s important to us. I don’t like it that way. See where she took me the last time. It wasn’t even about her. It was about something you yourself knew nothing about. That was way extreme. Yes, I can’t tell her to stop using me that way. I respect her too much to have such words come out of my mouth but you too are not doing anything to protect me. To cut everything short, I won’t come there again for her to do that to me.”
He was quiet and nodded throughout my rant. He asked me, “Don’t worry. I will tell her you don’t like that so she’ll leave you alone.” I screamed, “My man, don’t go and make my case worse. I didn’t ask you to go and warn her ooo. If you can’t make it any better, then please let it be like that. I don’t want in-law wars in the future.”
The most important thing was that he heard me and understood the point I was making. He was determined to do something about it but he was also concerned about the impression he might make in the mind of his mother. He hesitated. I told him, ”You don’t have to tell her anything and I’m not supposed to come there. It’s fun the way we go out and have time for ourselves. It can continue like that while we think of what next to do.”
For about three months, I didn’t go there. One day he told me, “Come home. If she tries to take you to the kitchen, I will tell her we are working on something so you can’t go. I think if we continue like that every day, she’ll get the message and stop worrying you.” I thought it was a great idea. We don’t have to run from something we can face and win. I went to see him one Saturday. They were all in the hall when I got there. Immediately his mother saw me she screamed, “Am I seeing a ghost or I’m seeing a human being?” I laughed and greeted them. She said, “Eiii it’s been a very long time. I thought you were even fighting with us. Why don’t you visit these days?” My boyfriend’s father retorted, “She should come here so you take her to Paga to go and bath crocodiles?”
We all laughed but she didn’t find it funny. She retorted, “What are you trying to say?” He answered, “Is that not what you do to her all the time?” She answered, “Why are you crying more than the bereaved?” She turned to me and said, “My daughter, you’re welcome. Don’t mind him. He’s just jealous of us.” We both left the hall and went into his room. My boyfriend continued laughing until I slapped his thighs to stop. He said, “I don’t have to say anything. Dad has fought half of the battle for us. Let’s see what we can do for the half that’s left to fight.”
I stayed with him all day and she didn’t come to call me.
We heard a knock hours later. She opened the trapped door and stuck her neck in. She said, “Your food is ready oo. You’ll come to the hall and eat or I should bring it here?” My boyfriend answered, “Don’t worry, when we are ready, we’ll come.”
We went to the hall and ate together. She was watching TV with her husband. I was feeling some sort of guilt in my heart but she made it easier. She talked to me every now and then and even asked me if I was enjoying the food. She said, “The way you can cook, I’m scared I will cook for you and you’ll tell me it’s not nice.” We all laugh again. The moment was good and it made my heart lighter.
It wasn’t an opportunity for me to go there every weekend though. We changed our ways. We went out more often than being in the house. And whenever we went to the house, she left us alone.
In March, My boyfriend told me he was looking for a place to rent. I asked, “Are they sacking you from the house?” He answered, “No, I want to be closer to my office so I will rent out my place when I get a new place, plus we would be getting married soon so I have to start making preparations.” He Got a place in April and moved in in May. He’s his own man now and I visit him anytime I can. I call his mom every now and then and she’s always happy to hear my voice.
Plans are far advanced for us to get married. If everything goes according to plan, we should be married before the year ends. If not, then we would marry before January ends. We are not under pressure. We are taking things slowly while ensuring that everything is in the right place for us to have a solid foundation.