3 Nigerian men open up about feeling unlovable when they are broke

The designation of men as ‘providers’ is as old as human civilisation, and while the cost of this on men’s overall well-being – particularly as regards to their sense of self-worth, has only been in public discourse for a handful of decades the implication of this cost is replete in our daily lives if we look closely.

It is in the violence disproportionately perpetrated by men who will risk death rather than bear the ‘shame’ this conditioning promises will be their lot were they to fail in their ‘manly’ duties. It’s in the endless circle of conversation by men who yearn to be loved but are certain they won’t be loved outside their ability to ‘provide’ financially for their significant other. The list is endless.

Twitter user @Kofi_Seven, reignited the age-old conversation about love when he tweeted, “I think men are not properly loved until they make money.”

The reality – especially for a country that is designated the poverty capital of the world, is that this is far from the truth. Women– even with their lot of being unable to have equal earning power with men in Nigeria’s patriarchal society, do love men who don’t have money. 

The question is therefore not whether or not @Kofi_Seven is right in his tweet, but how do we understand the thinking that stokes this notion in men’s minds?

We spoke to 3 Nigerian men to understand why they – if they do, feel unlovable unless they have money to spend on their significant others.

Abdulazeez (27, M)

There is a reignited conversation about men struggling to believe they are deserving of love unless they can provide financially, do you feel the same way?

“It is hard not to feel that way when the only times I have peace and can lose myself in whatever romance I can get from my babe, is the period between meeting or fulfilling one financial demand to the next financial demand.

Like now, I just bought her anko (asoebi) last week, and our chats have been beautiful since. She will get cranky once she has a need I’m struggling to meet.

You should see our chats from the week before Christmas. E go shock you say na d same pesin.”

Have you asked yourself if maybe you get irritable and distant yourself when you can’t provide? And if maybe that’s why your relationship hits rock bottom around these times?

“I haven’t asked myself that but my friends have mentioned it a few times. 

It is this sense of helplessness that descends on you when you don’t have. I am a first child with 3 women to take care of in my family alone, make that 4 with my girlfriend. 

If you vex me as I no get money, the kind fight I go fight you, you sef go know say my head is not correct.”

Lol, good thing we caught you on a good day. You may need to work on this though, you owe your loved ones an approachable lover/brother/son/friend even when you are broke.

“It is a work in progress.”

Gift (26, M)

Do you get despondent and irritable when you are broke, if yes why?

Yes, and it is strange because I don’t have to deal with the usual reason of “I have to provide for family,” that is the most frequent cause for most guys. I live with friends, and as the last born in an all-boys family I am not compelled to “provide.” But when you are raised with the notion that men are “providers” you find yourself, even when you are not expected to provide, second-guessing what your worth could be if you don’t provide.

Many men in your similar circumstance – unburdened by immediate family, cite relationships as the reason for their despondency, can you relate?

“I can’t relate. Call me lucky, but I have not had a relationship in which my significant other depended on me to the extent I will feel shitty about not having money because I will fall short in providing for them.”

Sounds like a millennial win. Lucky you.

“Damn right.”

Ukechukwu (28, M)

On a scale of 1-10, how sad and irritable do you get when you are broke?

“Can you make that a scale of 1-13? If not colour me a full on 10.”

Can you point at a reason why?

“Let’s see if we can count them. My younger siblings who look up to me as their big bro – I am a first child. My friends – and there are many, who I love dearly and enjoy coming through for every time they need my help.

Bills – that never seem to stop coming, which haunt your ego until you pay them. My dog that completely depends on me. Pretty much. Oh, and seeing your mates flex while you’re counting the days till the zeroes on your account balance meet that dreadful decimal point. It is too much to deal with.”

These are all very valid concerns. What I really want to know is if this affects how you think about being loved. Do you feel undeserving of love if you can’t provide for your significant other?

“Not ‘undeserving’ per se, it is this feeling of not settling. I feel untethered, because it is terrifying to get comfortable if you feel inadequate. You are always waiting for when they will ask for something and you are forced to reveal you are incapable. That is depressing.”

Have you ever spoken to a significant other about this feeling?

“For what? So they can ridicule me about it? Naa. I am good.”

You may need to at a point sha. For both your sakes. Thank you for agreeing to do this.

“We will see about that, I highly doubt it. You are welcome.”

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